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‘Nothing to do with business’ Group-IB founder Ilya Sachkov arrested on treason charges

Source: Meduza
Andrey Lyubimov / RBC / TASS

Ilya Sachkov, the co-founder and CEO of the cybersecurity company Group-IB, was arrested in Moscow on suspicion of treason. On Wednesday morning, Moscow’s Lefortovo Court jailed him for two months pending trial. A day earlier, police raided the company’s Moscow headquarters — spokespeople said the search ended in the evening, but according to RTVi, men in masks and camouflage uniforms were still on duty near the office overnight. Kommersant reported that the office resumed work as usual on Wednesday morning. 

The exact charges against Sachkov haven’t been disclosed. An unnamed source told TASS that the Group-IB co-founder pleaded not guilty to “the transfer of classified data to foreign intelligence.” Without citing a specific source, the Telegram Channel 112 wrote that the charges against Sachkov could be linked to the case against former FSB Colonel Sergey Mikhailov, who was convicted of treason and sentenced to 22 years in prison in 2019.

Group-IB said in a statement that the company is confident in Ilya Sachkov’s innocence and business integrity. Group IB’s lawyers are currently examining the court’s statement on Sachkov’s arrest, the statement said. The company declined to comment on the criminal charges and the circumstances of the case “due to ongoing procedural activities.” Group-IB co-founder Dmitry Volkov will assume leadership of the company in the near future. Yesterday, RTVi reported that both he and Sachkov weren’t answering their phones. However, there have been no reports of investigative actions concerning Volkov. 

In response to Meduza’s inquiries, Group-IB investor Andrey Romanenko said it was “inconvenient” for him to talk, because he was “about to take off on a plane.” Alexander Chachava, a former investor in the company, said he “didn’t know what was going on.” According to a Meduza source in the IT sector, Group-IB recently “managed to pick fights with everyone — with competitors, partners, regulators, and security officials.” “The industry in general wondered who’s protecting them and who’s helping them, because they were acting pretty tough,” said the source.

The investigation didn’t disclose the details of the case. Criminal cases launched on treason charges are handled by the Federal Security Service (FSB); since the case materials contain state secrets, the trials usually take place behind closed doors, and lawyers are made to sign non-disclosure agreements. However, Business Ombudsman Boris Titov said that investigators need to offer an explanation, “given the magnitude and uniqueness of the figure of entrepreneur [Ilya] Sachkov for Russia’s entire IT industry.” He also underscored that otherwise, this case would be a “critical blow to the sector and its investment appeal.” 

In turn, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov insisted that the case “has nothing to do with the business and investment climate,” because “the charges aren’t related to the economy, but to treason.” Peskov added that the Kremlin isn’t familiar with the details of the case. At the same time, he underscored that the case against Sachkov shouldn’t be compared to prosecution of Baring Vostok founder Michael Calevy, since “there’s definitely no connection” between the two cases.

Group-IB is one of the leading Russian companies in the field of cybersecurity. It specializes in countering cyberattacks and online fraud, and investigating high-tech crimes. The company deals with major clients like Sberbank, Alfa-Bank, Megafon, and Rostec. Group-IB is also an official partner of Interpol and Europol. On top of taking part in these organizations’ operations, the company also helps Russian law enforcement agencies uncover cases of cyber fraud inside Russia. Ilya Sachkov co-founded Group-IB in 2003 — at the time he was just 17 years old. In 2016, Forbes included him on its “30 Under 30” list.

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